Oak Ridge Develops Safer Electrolyte

New solid electrolyte would prevent thermal runaway and fires, as well as store five times more energy.

Published: 28-Jan-2013

By Kevin Bullis

An electrolyte developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could enable lithium-ion batteries that store five to 10 times more energy and are safer than the ones that recently caught fire on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

While the cause of the Boeing fire hasn’t yet been determined, Boeing could have reduced the risk of fire by choosing a safer electrode chemistry (see “Grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners Use Batteries Prone to Overheating”). But it would have had fewer options for the electrolyte—the material that allows current to flow through a battery. Lithium-ion batteries, even the ones that use relatively safe electrodes, still use flammable liquid electrolytes.

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